Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Gary Cooper of rural medicine

In her oral history interview, Karen Whitaker Knapp, former Director of the OHSU Office of Rural Health, describes some of the "movers and shakers" of rural medicine in Oregon. One of the characters she mentions is Lowell Euhus, M.D., the "Gary Cooper of rural medicine." Dr. Euhus was instrumental in the organization of a group of people who met in Joseph, Oregon, in 1988, to discuss the state of rural healthcare. As a result of that meeting, Senate Bill 438 was passed by the 89th legislature, creating the Oregon Area Health Education Centers, instituting a tax credit for rural physicians, and establishing a loan repayment program for doctors practicing in rural areas. Whitaker Knapp goes on to note that "he's very modest about taking credit for that now. But unquestionably, he's the one who started it."

Luckily, Dr. Euhus has also sat for an oral history interview as part of the history of medicine in Oregon project cosponsored by the OMA, the OMEF, and OHSU. In this, we hear his side of the story: how a math major from Oregon State University wound up going to medical school here at UOMS and then went back out to Enterprise, Oregon, to serve as both the community's physician and the county's medical examiner ("sometimes not much fun"). Par for the course in a town where the coroner was also the ambulance driver, and the ambulance would bring back to Euhus take-out food from La Grande restaurants.

The interviewer questioning Dr. Euhus was none other than Dr. Ted Merrill, himself a rural practitioner from John Day. Dr. Merrill has produced a book based on his experiences in rural medicine, called I Only Dress the Wounds: notes of a country doctor (2005). Recommended reading for all medical students getting prepared for their rural rotations, as well as all you baby boomers out there dreaming of retirement in a lovely mountain community somewhere...

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